Fear of the Dark

Gah.

Why does my brain insist on periodically going through the nights of consecutive, horrible nightmares?

This is why I don’t sleep well sometimes. It’s not the getting to sleep part, I can do that. It’s staying asleep.

I’m not talking about the occasional bad dream here, I mean the night-after-night wake-up-drenched-in-cold-sweat-and-possibly-screaming-aloud type thing for a week straight.

The kind of dreams that feel so vivid and real, and are still disturbing even to my waking, rational mind. Sometimes I swear my brain is punishing me for something.

I’ve never been much afraid of the dark of corners, of hallways, closets, rooms. But the dark behind my eyelids–that is another story.

An Update

To my readers: my sincere apologies, guys. Things got kind of crazy there for a while, but not because of mental issues.

University classwork tends to be something that can keep a person occupied, but I still had plenty of free time, until I went to the doctor for a pain in my back and he sent me to a surgeon, who decided he should operate the next week. So, I had surgery, and was out for a month.

And it sucked.

I was in too much pain to do anything but lay around, and even that hurt half the time. But then, as soon as the pain was manageable, I returned to school, and resolved to make up the work for all of my class but one (a lab; it was really necessary to have been there in person for that class) instead of taking the remainder of the semester off.

And that sucked, too. It was crazy.

BUT, with some dedication and the encouragement of my awesome friends, I actually did it–and made nearly all As for my final grades, which, yes, I am ridiculously proud of.

And now the semester is over! I will have a lot more time and will try to get back in the habit of checking in here and posting again.

So, yes, that was my update. That’s all for now!

Ramblings

So, I sat down at my laptop today to try to do some creative writing, since I was in a strange mood and also because I haven’t set any time aside for non-academic writing since the semester started. What followed was pretty unnerving, when I re-read it. Mostly, because I can’t tell if it makes any sense at all, or an uncanny amount of sense. It’s probably just the former, and I’m still thinking strangely. 

For the bored or curious, here’s my semi-psychotic rant:

Life, you know, is madness.

Well, I believe the term used is “absurdity.”

The term used by philosophers. They chose well.

Absurdity. Not many people get it, if one really can get it (and I believe I have.)

Evokes laughter, doesn’t it?

Laughter. Yes. I laugh a lot, don’t I?

At the absurdity. At everything. Well, it’s all one and the same, really. You see, I’ve realized that laughter isn’t madness. It’s the most natural response in the face of the cold, serpentine gaze of “reality.”

Why?

Well.

I’ll tell you. Ha.

The meaninglessness of everything gets to a person rather quickly, once you accept that as the truth. Life was a random accident, evolution, a curious coincidence. All we are, all we do—it’s all temporary in the face of the void beyond the existence we know. (Assuming, of course, I’m right. This is all assuming I’m right…)

Yes, we can search for meaning. We can create meaning. I’ve done plenty of searching myself. Lots and lots of searching. But when we die—what then?

I was afraid of sleep once, you know. Death, while awake, you can mostly see coming—sure, sure, there’s the occasional split-second freight train accident and such. But for the most part, you feel the pain and know it’s coming. But sleep, death’s bastard brother, is much more sneaky than life, when it comes to its dealings with death. One minute, you’re dreaming, the next moment, you’re not. So simple. So completely fucking terrifying.

Don’t worry. I can sleep now.

Most nights.

I once visited a cadaver lab, as a student. I was making jokes the whole time, which my fellow students either appreciated or tried to ignore (the ones that weren’t passing out from the mere sight of the gray-skinned, well-preserved, bony corpses, that is.)

The one I dissected was an old lady. Had been an old lady, in life. Now, it was a cadaver. Of course, hair, clothing, eyeballs… that was all gone.

When we got to the stomach, the girl to my right passed out. I helped catch her, keep her from heading face-first into the cadaver’s open body cavity, and the professors led her into the hallway.

Once they were gone, curiosity overcame me.

I had to see the face (so tastefully covered with a towel.)

So I pulled off the white, stained towel, to look the corpse in the eyes. Sockets.

Was it grinning? It seemed that way for just a moment.

I left that day thinking of laughter in the face of death.

That’s why I laugh. You see now.

If I weren’t laughing, I’d be crying.

Those empty eyesockets beheld a terrible truth. They saw non-existence itself.

Laughter, madness, sanity, solemnity…

(Perhaps I am the sane one.)

(I know why skulls grin.

Yes, perhaps it has to do with having no lips.

Perhaps.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s because they know the terrible, mind-crushing, amusing truth.)

Life

So I’ve been really busy since classes started up again a few months ago, and that’s why I haven’t been posting. I apologize for that. But the good news is, now that I’m being kept busy, I have less time to dwell on things that make me miserable. Also, I think being at the university tends to give me a sense of purpose, reminds me of the career ahead of me. Anyway, the point is that I’ve actually been fairly happy lately.

I enjoy my classes because I’m a nerd who loves learning. Also, I’ve decided to take up learning German. It’s not exactly for a class–my college has made the idiotic decision to get rid of the German program to save money by denying the only German professor tenure and refusing to hire a new one when she leaves at the end of this semester. But here’s the thing: I am now determined to learn the language (and why not? It’s a wonderful language) and the German prof was impressed by that. So, she’s agreed to help me learn–even lent me some books and CDs. She’s not getting paid for it, and I’m not getting course credit for it. But it’s not about credit for me, it’s about learning the language. And I very much appreciate her efforts to help me learn, especially taking time out of her week–because she does still have classes until the semester is over–to see me in her office once a week to help me learn.

Anyway, that’s all I have for now.

Harmless

In the wake of another shooting disaster, I find myself reflecting on the shooting that really changed how America saw gun violence– I’m speaking of Columbine. Massacres like these always leave people on edge, and wary of other potential culprits. And so, fearful eyes turn their wary stares to counter-culture folks once again.

It really is unfortunate that the Columbine shooters chose to wear trench coats. I mean, had they been wearing red polos, would the United States have forever seen red-polo-shirt-wearers differently? Somehow, I don’t think so. But the public was very eager to try to connect the killers with the goth and punk subcultures. The so-called moral guardians maintained that these subcultures adhered to a violent philosophy.

Well, allow me to say differently.

First, let me briefly describe my attire for the first time ever. I am wearing a simple black shirt, jeans, a spike collar, and black lace-up boots. My nails are painted pitch-black, I have several piercings on my right ear, and I have been known to sport my favorite black trench coat from time to time. My style might surprise some readers, because until now, (I assume) you have probably assumed I dress more mainstream. But let me be clear: Edgy? I prefer to think so. Omnicidal? I think not.

It’s very annoying and frustrating that people might look at someone like me and see me as a threat. When strangers bother to talk to me, I think they find me very friendly. Hell, I smile at people and hold open doors. I realize that doesn’t preclude someone from being a sociopath, but come on.

And, research shows no correlation between violent attitudes and the goth or punk subcultures. People who identify with goth culture do tend to be more likely to be depressed, but professionals even say that for these people, identifying with this culture is beneficial, as it provides these individuals with peers with similar interests and problems– a kind of support group.

Some people might argue that while the connection between certain styles of dress and violence in the public’s mind is unfortunate, the easiest thing to do would just be to stop looking this way if you want to stop being perceived as dangerous.

My answer to these people is, quite simply, why should I? I mean, I prefer to dress this way. It makes me happy. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t do it in the first place. So why should I be the one to change, when I’m not the one who is mistaken?

Some communities have made steps toward a more open mind. I remember seeing a documentary about a high school football player who intentionally ran down a goth-looking boy with his car. The football player, if I remember correctly, almost got off the hook, but was properly sentenced in the end. The community regarded the teenager’s death as a tragedy, and began educating people about the subcultures I have mentioned. The end result is that the town is now a very goth- and punk-friendly place. Now, if that doesn’t show that openmindedness is possible, then I don’t know what does.

Let’s just hope no more teenagers have to die to get the point across that we’re harmless.

I’ll close with just this: next time you see that goth-looking person out in town, try to be more openminded before you just write him off as a freak or as a threat.

Paying Off?

So I know I’ve been gone from WordPress for quite a while, but I’ve been very busy during that time. Regrettably, even this post probably won’t end up being very long.

However, I have encouraging news for those who are also trying to lose weight: it’s possible, and I can personally attest to that fact (finally). In my last post, I mentioned that I had just started watching what I ate more closely and had just started walking every day. And, well, I did. And, I have now been on my thyroid medication long enough for it to start kicking in.

The result?

I lost five pounds in the first week and a half.

I know it’s just a small amount, but hell, it’s a start. And it’s a good start, too: I never expected to see results so, well, soon. And I haven’t weighed myself lately (I find weighing myself too frequently to be detrimental to my mental health, because I lose my patience with myself), but I feel confident that I’ve probably lost a little bit more.

So I’m proof that you can start losing weight without counting Weight Watchers points on everything you eat. I mean, if that helps you, go for it. Though I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be doing that for the rest of my life. I’m not doing a temporary diet; I’m changing my lifestyle, which is something I can easily maintain for the rest of my life, and keep the weight off. Not to knock Weight Watchers, because I’ve known some people it has worked wonders for, but if you start the program and then quit, you will gain weight back. I’ve known people who have experienced that, too.

But just walking every day, as I have… it feels good, it’s good for you, it’s free, you don’t need equipment to do it–the list goes on. And, of course, it’s a start toward a healthier lifestyle.

Weight

So first of all, let me apologize sincerely to my readers for not posting in forever. I was in the process of moving, and now that everything is unpacked and in its place, I find the time to make a new post.

And this new post is about weight. I gained, in the past several months, a tremendous amount of weight. And the most frustrating part is that I didn’t do anything differently. I had started a new medication, Abilify, at the beginning of when I began my rapid weight gain, and I and my doctors suspect the two are closely related. Additionally, I recently found out that at some point my thyroid stopped working properly, which contributes to pretty much all the problems I have. No, seriously: rapid weight gain for no reason, depression, psychosis, lack of energy… all could be related to my underactive thyroid.

But there’s good news, too. Firstly, I have been put on thyroid medication, which should cause me to lose a few pounds right then and there. And, I’ve started doing the whole eating healthy and exercising thing. It sucks, but I don’t have a choice. I have to get back down to the weight I was (which was pretty thin). So, I have my work cut out for me. But the point is, it’s do-able.

Dreams and Nightmares

I don’t usually remember my dreams when I wake up, but when I do, they are inevitably bizarre and/or incredibly random. Last night, I had an entire dream revolving around a two-dimensional integer array. That’s right, I had a whole dream about programming code. Just don’t ask me what the plot was; if there was a plot, I don’t remember. Probably made no sense anyway.

And then there are those dreams that I wish I had not remembered. While my dreams are at best hazy in my memory, my nightmares–the ones that I remember–are always vivid, realistic, and seared into my memory in detail.

“Your nightmares can’t be that bad,” you might be saying. Well, take this one that I had not that long ago: in my dream, I was in a parking garage. It might have been underground, I don’t know, but it was dimly lit, as those tend to be. I was in my car, sitting very still, and watching. The target of my silent staring was a blonde woman, tall, thin, pretty (and I would swear she is no one that I know in real life) and walking quickly to her car. Then I moved like lightning from my car and began to approach her from behind.

The easily disgusted might want to go read a different post now.

She realized I was trailing her, but it was too late–as she screamed for help I grabbed her and forced something over her nose and mouth–chloroform, maybe? She was limp in my arms in a minute and I dragged her back to my car. I drove her home (the home in my dream was a small apartment I have never seen before). I proceeded to take a knife and slit her throat. Then I made quick work with the body–I sliced all of the meat off her bones. I remember a black-and-white dog approaching me as I worked, and I commanded it to go away, that it would get some soon enough. I put a generous portion of the human flesh in the dog’s bowl, and it ran to it and hungrily began to snap it up. The rest, I cooked up and ate myself. I even remember what it tasted like in the dream–roast pork. (Yeah, I couldn’t look at roast pork for a while after having this dream.)

I’m not one of those people who believes in universal dream symbols. I disagree with Freud (as do plenty of modern psychologists) when he said that dreams contain latent symbols–a gun might represent masculinity, for example, for the obvious phallic resemblance. I think that, if dreams have any meaning at all, the meaning of objects and events in the dream are specific to the dreamer. For example, I’m pretty sure I had that code dream because I’ve spent several hours lately finishing up a massive project for class.

Of course, the jury’s still out on what the hell it means to dream about being a cannibal-serial killer.

 

Punctuation Rant

So I feel like doing another rant, and here’s the basis of it: punctuation and grammar. Really. Is it really that difficult to do one’s best not to mangle one’s native language? And I’m not talking about those obscure rules that no one really gives a damn about save for maybe a professor or two. It frustrates me, perhaps since I am a writer and language is my tool of choice, to the point that I kind of want to shout at the next ignorant person to misuse a word or punctuation mark–perhaps in something similar to Herr Starr’s immortal freak-out: “IMPROPER USE OF INVERTED COMMAS, HOOVER!” Admittedly, that character of the violent and darkly hilarious comic, Preacher, had all but lost his mind at that point, but whatever.

Yet, at the same time, I don’t really want everyone to follow the rules of grammar and punctuation. Those who don’t leave behind sometimes amusing results.

Those signs that say “Slow children walking” are great, for example. Are we to drive slowly to avoid hitting children, or are we to be warned that some particularly cognitively disadvantaged children are out and about? The difference lies in the placement of a comma, which should be there, but isn’t.

It reminds me of that old joke about the pandas. For those unfamiliar: two pandas walk into a restaurant and order food. When they finish, they produce guns, and begin firing at the other customers. A horrified survivor runs over to them and asks, “Why did you do it?” By way of reply, the pandas pull out a pamphlet from the zoo, and point to the panda section, which reads, “Eats, shoots, and leaves.” The joke is, of course, that the second comma should not be there.

And then there’s the frequent abuse of quotation marks. Good god, people. Why do so many sign-makers feel the need to place seemingly arbitrary words in quotations? I was in the library the other day, and a handwritten sign reminded the library’s patrons to be “quiet.” So, what exactly is that supposed to mean? Are we not really meant to be quiet?

Hell, there’s a whole page on TV Tropes dedicated to amusing instances of abuse to punctuation–mostly in published works, nonetheless.

So, I’ll close with a few general rules:

1) Commas generally go where there’s a brief pause. If you can read the sentence aloud without a pause and it doesn’t sound strange, you likely don’t need a comma.

2) Think carefully about where you place quotations. If you are writing a sign reminding people to keep quiet in a library, odds are that you don’t need quotations.

3) Apostrophes generally are used to show possession. NOT PLURALITY. Hence, “John’s apples” is fine, but “John’s apple’s” is just obnoxiously wrong.

So, follow those rules, and you should be fine. And that’s all I have to say about punctuation.

Forging Meaning

A religiously inclined acquaintance once asked me something along the lines of, “If you don’t have a religion, where do you get your morals?” And I told him that I choose my own morals, rather than simply accepting them because I am told to. And I’m okay with that. But then he asked me, “Well, what do you believe is the point of life, if it’s not to grow closer to God?” Well, I had to think a little harder about that one. My reply was, “There is none.”

And really, I believe that. There is no point to life. We are born, some of us pass on our genetic code, we die. And all the while the world remains a dismal place, full of suffering. I simply go through the motions of life like a robot. Eventually I’ll die, too, and my death will be as meaningless as the life I lived–the life we all lived.

It has, in the past, occurred to me that the only reason I allow myself to live is for the sake of others I care about, who remain under the illusion that their lives have purpose.

But is this the way it has to be? I’ve been thinking harder about this.

I will always see the world as a terrible place, and humans as inherently destructive (not “evil,” which is a concept which I’m not certain exists) because I believe those to be facts. And I also believe that life has no inherent meaning. But, I’m beginning to realize, that doesn’t mean I can’t forge my own meaning.

So, what, I’ve been asking myself, constitutes a meaningful life? I think my answer may be tied to my greatest fear–being forgotten after death. I have always, whenever I happened to pass a graveyard, read as many of the names on the headstones as I could. Perhaps it’s as a sort of tribute to the people who have died and been forgotten. If not for a fading name on a piece of rock, nobody would ever know that they were people once, save for perhaps a few descendants–but some may not even have had that. And eventually, even your own progeny forget you (Do you know the name of your great-great-great grandmother?).

I want to be remembered. I want to have impact on people’s lives.

I may not be the next Sigmund Freud or Carl Rogers, but if I can manage to become as brilliant a psychologist as I am capable of, and if I can help as many people as I can, then maybe my life will be meaningful.